Tanya Morgan’s Brooklynati is a tale of two cities—namely, Brooklyn and Cincinnati. The hip-hop trio comprises members living in both cities, and on their second album, they build a loose concept around the hypothetical combination of the two locales. A radio deejay, between tracks, announces little league games at Yancey Park (and that Dilla reference should give you some indication of the vibe throughout). The group even went so far as to create a Web site for their fictional town—Brooklynati.com—where you can create your own Brooklynati driver’s license, check out WFMJ’s top 40 list (featuring Hardcore Gentlemen, Isaac Hayes, Jay-Z and, of course, Tanya Morgan) play a game of Crunkadelic or check out the Beer-Basted Creme Brulee at the Brooklynati Brewery. Even for a fictional place, a strange municipal mash-up, it looks like a pretty damn fun town to visit. But Brooklynati the album makes that even more apparent, thanks to its non-stop flow of wonderfully crafted and endlessly smile-inducing hip-hop grooves.
Ilyas, Donwil and Von Pea create their own hip-hop Utopia on Brooklynati, throwing down confident, but cool lyrics over buoyant beats and mesmerizing samples that never wear out their welcome. In some ways, it harkens back to the early ’90s, when Tribe and De La Soul were at the top of their game. And in others, it feels much more contemporary, more dazzling and colorful in its production. On first track “On Our Way,” guitars slide and trickle, while “Alleye Need” lays down a thick and brilliant funk with brassy horns, reminiscent of Camp Lo’s infectious blaxploitation rap. Single “So Damn Down” starts off with a cheeky introduction of the group as the “Rap Pack,” before ushering in a feelgood party jam, solidified with the line “life is a party.” And on “Bang & Boogie,” the group extols the virtues of courtship and dancing over a “Fly Me To the Moon” sample. Best of all, it begins with this zinger of a verse: “I was in the village with my cousin Mike Willis/ reminiscing all the babysittin’, watchin’ Dobie Gillis.”
There are chuckles here and there, as on “Hardcore Gentlemen,” a simultaneous tribute and parody track that nods to Pharcyde and Onyx. And there’s no shortage of fantastic beats, from the twinkle of “She’s Gone” to the synth-funk of “Never 2ndary.” Brooklyn and Cincinnati may be separated by hundreds of miles on Rand McNally’s map, but when Tanya Morgan bridges the two, the result is a block party to which you definitely won’t want to lose your invitation.
Common – Be
The Foreign Exchange – Connected
Pharcyde – Labcabincalifornia
Video: “So Damn Down”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.